Reishi and Autoimmune Disease

by Dr. Melissa Carr, Dr. TCM

March 27, 2018

Ganoderma lucidum, otherwise known as red reishi, is one of the most revered herbs in Asia. Because it has powerful adaptogenic and immune-supporting properties, reishi has been attracting a great deal of interest for treating autoimmune diseases.

What is autoimmune disease?

Autoimmune disease is the result of the immune system attacking healthy organs and tissue in the body because it does not properly distinguish between good cells and harmful ones like viruses, bacteria, and other invading pathogens. The result? Degeneration and dysfunction of tissue, often including a host of painful symptoms caused by inflammation.

What are some common autoimmune diseases?

While many infectious diseases have been essentially eradicated or managed over the last century, autoimmune diseases have been on the rise. In part, that’s because we are gaining a better understanding about them—though we are still in the dark about what causes them. We are also improving our ability to diagnose them—though many autoimmune disorders are notoriously difficult to pin down, leaving sufferers frustrated and ineffectively treated for a long time.

There are approximately 80 diseases that are considered autoimmune, and that number is expected to grow.

Here are just some of the diseases that fall under the autoimmune category:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Grave’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Multiple sclerosis

While there are medications that can help treat the symptoms of autoimmune disease, they normally come with a host of serious side effects. To truly tackle this ever-climbing syndrome, the root of the problem needs to be addressed, requiring a greater holistic approach.

Red Reishi balances the autoimmune response

Red reishi is an immune modulator and adaptogenic. That means it helps balance the immune system and supports the body’s ability to react to stress and change. It has been used by Chinese medicine physicians for thousands of years to “strengthen body resistance and consolidate the constitution of patients.” However, more recent science has helped us to learn how it does that, with researchers discovering several medicinal compounds in reishi, including polysaccharides and ganoderic acids (named for Ganoderma fungi).

The polysaccharides of reishi mushrooms have been found to modulate the immune system so that it reacts more effectively to the attack of foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, while calming down an overactive immune system that’s attacking its own healthy cells. Without going into detail (you can check out the links to research below), the immune system has several ways it operates, and reishi works on a wide range of these mechanisms.

Furthermore, the ganoderic acids in this miracle mushroom have been shown to fight hyperactive immune system diseases, including allergies, by slowing down histamine release, improving the flow of oxygen, and boosting the functions of the liver.

So, whether your immune system is underperforming or overperforming, reishi has been shown to help fine-tune immune functioning, bringing it back into balance. Talk to your qualified health professional about adding reishi mushroom to your treatment plan if you have an autoimmune disease.

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.


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